Creating a Calm Environment
Applying the Techniques of Classroom Management to Teaching
The philosophy of our work is underpinned by the understanding of the neurological processes that drive the brain’s activity and that is to maintain a condition of homeostatic equilibrium a sense of calmness where the physical, social and intellectual needs are being satisfied – they are calm. Children will prioritise their need to be physically and socially contented first as failure to do so presents a threat to their survival. This means that to access the child’s cognitive, intellectual thoughts requires the satiation of those lower-order needs leaving the non-life-threatening drive to solve the problem of what is puzzling them; classroom motivation.
In the classroom it is predominantly social threats that will distract the student and these will be in the form of some sort of attack on the child’s security, either a threat to their safety or their being excluded from the group. Social distraction is manifested in the form of overt or covert dysfunctional behaviour.
A central competence teachers must possess is the management of these social threats, that is managing the behaviour in the classroom. If this is not achieved then the effectiveness of any lesson presentation is seriously compromised. This emphasis on classroom management is of critical importance in delivering lessons but is not afforded the significance it demands in teacher training.
Appropriate Teaching Responses to Managing Behaviour in the Classroom:
- Understand the importance of a predictable, stable learning environment
- Understand the effects of emotions;
- Understand dysfunctional behaviour and emotions learned in early childhood will emerge in stressful situations
- Understand students need to operate in a state of calm to learn; and
- Being able to identify and respond to dysfunctional behaviours and emotions
The contents of this Newsletter are applied to all students and provides a ‘democratic’ template for the whole class however, they are of most use for those students who have suffered abuse and/or neglect who provide the highest demand for this management. The key components for any effective learning environment are:
- The curriculum and the pedagogy of the lesson – the content of the lesson and how it is delivered
- Structure – this is the rules of the classroom, the establishment between actions and consequences, that is if a student does ‘X’ they will get the same consequence for their action as everyone else
- Expectations – this is the definition of just what is expected, the detailed description of the action
- Relationships – this is the establishment of supportive, professional boundaries between the student and the teacher. This is managed by the teacher for the benefit of the student. This paper does not directly refer to the formation of relationships but the behaviours described underpin their effectiveness.
Teachers only have a finite time with their class and the time spent dealing with students’ behaviours takes away from that available for teaching. This explains why two of the top inhibitors to effective learning (according to Hattie) is the absence of disruptive students and the classroom environment, that is there is a minimal amount of time distracted from learning! This time budget is illustrated below (This is taken from the work of Christine Richmond).
In very difficult classrooms a teacher may have to spend most of their time managing behaviour, they are minding the class while on the right most of their conversation is about teaching the lesson. It’s not difficult to see why disruptive behaviour is such a drain of student learning.
The key to developing a calm environment is illustrated in the diagram below:
It is a mistake to assume the student knows what you expect
It’s a mistake to assume students know what you expect from them either from their learning or their behaviour. You have to clearly identify what you want to see before you can correct them. The first step is to establish your expectation through direct instruction; they must know what you are after.
When you have done that you must check to see if they understand what you mean. Look about for behaviours that confirm they have got the message, they are on-task. If they have, provide feedback to them through verbal or non-verbal acknowledgement. If they are off-task focus on these students reinforcing your expectation. If they continue to fail to follow your instructions you should implement your behaviour management plan. The sequence goes like this:
If you inherit a difficult class then your first task is to get them on-task. This means as a professional teacher you must deal with the behaviour problems, this is sometimes very difficult but it must be done if you want to teach them. Remember, their dysfunctional behaviour has been learned, it is not their fault. Changing how they conduct themselves might be the best lesson they have ever received and you can be proud you made that difference.